Monday, 13 May 2013

A Shrike, Pipit and Some Waggies


I'd not been back from Norfolk long when a woodchat shrike turned up in Somerset and I spent several days at work hoping it would remain in situ until the weekend. Still being reported on the Friday, I was up with the birds on Saturday and down before it'd even properly got light. Parking up I clocked Carl's car which was amusing, as he'd been watching the reports too, fingers crossed all week!

Didn't have to wait long to see the bird, as it perched in a tree in front of us, though the sun hadn't come up by then and shots taken were merely for the sake of it, should it fly off suddenly. It didn't.

What followed were a great few hours watching the shrike as she caught insects both on the wing and also from the ground.

Nothing escaped her attention, bees and butterflies being particular favourites.

Despite what a couple of loud-mouthed local birders said, the shrike ignored where we were stood, flying down to snatch insects from between us at times, before returning to favoured perches either in trees or amongst the hedge.

The only problem we had that day was the wind, and the shrike often chose to perch and feed from the other side of the hedge from us, when it picked up, so as not to be moved around when scanning the area for insects.

Mid afternoon and the sun had moved around us, making the light rather harsh. Carl and I opted to call it a day and headed back up north.

Wyre Forest

With a few hours to spare one weekend, I chose to go looking for adders in the Wyre Forest, but despite checking the usual locations, I failed to see any initially. Rather disappointing, though I did find a shed skin, which has been baggsied by WildlifeKate!

Whilst mooching around the woods, I spooked a bird from an area covered in wood ants. It was a pipit, and seemed keen to return to feed, so I backed off to a safe distance (safe from the ants that is!) and waited.

Sure enough it dropped down and carried on poking about amongst the leaf litter, allowing me to get some reasonable shots as it did.

Only later did I realise it was a tree pipit, which aren't actually that common, and are usually quite flighty.

I saw an adder later on, but it slithered off before I could get the right lens out for the job!

Clifton Pits

After some reports of sub-species of yellow wagtails appeared online, I thought I'd spend a day at Clifton Pits, south of Worcester. I've been before, but only for a short visit. Parking up, I spotted a whitethroat in the hedge beside my car, but it vanished before I could get a shot.

Over the pools I could see a hobby hawking insects and I was soon beside the water, scanning for anything of interest. It was at that point I wondered if I'd left my car window open, so strolled back to find it closed, but also to bump into Steve Avery, who had also come for the wagtails.

Initially we only saw clouds of biting insects, which forced me to reach for the Jungle Formula spray - stinks but it works... Feeding off these abundant flies were flocks of sand martins, with swallows thrown in for good measure.

As well as hobbies overhead, we spotted something a bit bigger - a peregrine out hunting, though that soon zipped off at speed. Things were starting to get more interesting, and with a few pied wagtails around, we followed them to a field where we soon spotted yellow wagtails, and after careful viewing, both the blue-headed and channel wagtails.

I don't think I've seen either type before, but they're attractive little birds, though not easy to approach.

By now the heat haze was picking up as the clouds were being burned off, and getting clean shots was becoming difficult. Steve was struggling to view the screen on his video camera as he filmed the birds, not that you'd know after seeing his clip on You Tube later.

But patience yielded results, and we got pretty close to both of them eventually.

And with half a dozen normal yellow wagtails around, I didn't refuse shots of them either.

With the temperature increasing, the hobbies were hunting more frequently, and the martins seemed to increase their flights over the water. Steve decided to call it a day after getting his clips of the waggies, leaving me to photograph anything else I chose. I was supposed to be heading back to meet friends and family at the pub, but it was so lovely, I thought it'd be criminal to leave early.

While the martins, hobbies and wagtails were tempting, a familiar call from the trees nearby took my attention away. Cuckoo! Cuckoo! No prizes for guessing the bird, but I was pretty close to where it was calling from. Then I spotted it, as it broke cover, dropping down to grab something from the ground, and back up to a post where it scoffed its catch. A bit far for a shot, though I took some anyway.

Keeping as still as I could, I was chuffed when it started to hop along the posts towards me, occasionally dropping down to feed. It had just got close enough for half decent pics when another more distant call of cuckoo took its attention from feeding, and off it went.

Back to the martins, which I'd seen landing at the one end of the field, whilst I'd been playing statues waiting for the cuckoo. They were taking nesting material - old bits of straw left from where the horses had been eating. Never afraid to plonk myself down into the mud, I was soon sat in a slight dip in the ground, amongst the dust and who knows what else, waiting.

Didn't take long for the martins to ignore me, and swoop in to take bits. Getting shots of them on the ground was easy - getting them in flight, now that was a challenge.

Literally within 3 shots (burst) of them taking off, they were out of the frame. So it was very much a case of second guessing when they'd go, and hoping.

With no reason to leave, I stayed put and eventually got a few keepers from the session, even taking shots of the yellow wagtails, when they came in too close.

As the shadows lengthened, my ears and back of my neck started to itch, and I began to wish I'd packed my sunhat. By the time I'd got back to the car, the skin on my face felt like it was too small for the skull beneath it - maybe this is a cheap way of Botoxing?

A bit of sunburn was worth it for a superb day out. Just hoping for some more nice weather, as it's a place I could find myself visiting again!

1 comment:

Maricar Gomez said...

Wow stunning photos of birds..I really like this pictures..

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